— People interested in cutting their own Christmas trees can obtain Department of Natural Resources permits to cut trees from northern state forests. This service is only available on the Black River, Brule River, Flambeau River, Peshtigo River, Governor Knowles and Northern Highland-American Legion State Forests.
Permits can be obtained from the property headquarters for a nominal fee, said Teague Prichard, DNR forest management specialist. Fresh evergreen boughs also may be harvested with the non-commercial forest products permit.
"We typically issue about 400 to 500 Christmas tree permits per year," Prichard said. "We know people enjoy our forests throughout the year and the opportunity to find that special tree or bring home some fresh-scented evergreen boughs provides another great reason to visit our northern state forests."
Balsam firs — known for their beautiful fragrance and dark green needles — are among the most sought after species in the northern state forests. Various types of pines also find their way home with visitors, Prichard said.
Before heading into the woods with a freshly sharpened saw and permit in hand, DNR encourages visitors to know a few basics. For example, harvesting is prohibited within 100 feet or visual distance of roads, trails and water and there is no harvesting from campgrounds or day use areas.
Trees must be cut at ground level with a maximum height of 30 feet and the trees taken from state forests cannot be resold. Trees cannot be moved outside of the gypsy moth quarantine area (moved from eastern Wisconsin into western Wisconsin).
Find contact information for the northern state forests and their locations on the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, keyword "state forests." Use the keyword "Christmas tree" to learn more about the non-commercial harvesting process and download the "forest products permit." Some of the forests allow customers to send in the permit request with payment and an approval note will be sent with permit guidelines.
Not all forests issue Christmas tree cutting permits, so people should be sure to contact the state forest in advance to ensure there are no special harvesting restrictions. Many county forests also allow non-commercial harvest of Christmas trees with information available through www.wisconsincountyforests.com (exit DNR); before venturing out it's a good idea to contact the county forest as well.